Major reforms to planning for new housing in England proposed

Out-Law News | 13 Mar 2020 | 11:31 am | 2 min. read

The UK government is proposing to "rethink planning from first principles" in England, in order to speed up the delivery of new homes.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has proposed a number of changes to the planning system in England, ahead of a detailed white paper on more long-term reform due later this spring. The changes follow the allocation of additional funding for affordable housing and related infrastructure as part of this week's Budget and include plans to encourage construction of new housing above and around railway stations and on underdeveloped 'brownfield' sites.

The government intends to launch a national register of brownfield sites next month, backed by £400 million in funding to encourage local planning authorities (LPAs) to bring this mostly unused land back into use. It plans to consult on a new permitted development right allowing for the demolition of vacant commercial, industrial and residential buildings for the construction of new homes while avoiding lengthy planning processes; and examine ways to encourage "more beautiful design" and "higher standards" through the planning process.

Gilbey Iain

Iain Gilbey

Partner

The government has plenty to be getting on with without clogging the legislative programme with rafts of planning reform – what is actually required is a faster cranking of the handle, rather than abandoning the existing machine.

The government also intends to introduce a December 2023 deadline by which all LPAs must have an up to date local plan in place, failing which it will intervene on a case by case basis using its existing statutory powers.

Residential sector and planning expert Iain Gilbey of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "The 2023 hard deadline for local plans signals more intervention from the housing secretary, a move which could see a step change in plan adoption and tackling the housing crisis".

"Fast-tracking schemes that prioritise beauty could be a game changer. But investment into local authority planning departments and the Planning Inspectorate will be critical to supercharge planning decision making," he said.

However, Gilbey warned that a 'rethinking from first principles' reform of the planning system "should be approached with caution".

"The government has plenty to be getting on with without clogging the legislative programme with rafts of planning reform – what is actually required is a faster cranking of the handle, rather than abandoning the existing machine," he said.

The white paper on planning reform will be "bold and ambitious", with proposals to modernise the system through the use of new technology and make the system easier to understand. It will include a new planning fee structure, linked to a new performance framework, and automatic rebates where refused applications are successful on appeal.

The government intends to explore options to encourage planning permissions to be build out more quickly, and to expand the use of 'zoning' tools to simplify the process of granting planning permission for residential and commercial development in particular areas. It also intends to reform the compulsory purchase order (CPO) process, again to speed up land being freed for development and delivery of new infrastructure.

Owen Robbie_November 2019

Robbie Owen

Partner

The white paper should look at integrating the planning system for major housing proposals with the infrastructure they need.

The government plans to take forward many of the recommendations of a recent report by the independent Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, including increased urban tree planting and giving communities more of an opportunity to influence design standards in their area. It intends to revise the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to embed principles of good design and placemaking, expanding on the fundamental principles of good design and defining what will be expected of local authorities and developers.

The white paper will also consider ways in which to align planning for new housing with supporting infrastructure.

Infrastructure planning expert Robbie Owen of Pinsent Masons said: "One important way of doing this which the white paper should look at is integrating the planning system for major housing proposals with the infrastructure they need".

"This could involve allowing combined applications for planning consent, including any necessary compulsory acquisition powers, to be submitted under the development consent order (DCO) regime for national infrastructure planning," he said.